"The Book of Eli ripped off my film", says Aussie director

Book of EliWriter/director Aaron Stevenson has claimed that the Hollywood film The Book of Eli is “nearly identical” to his project Freedom Deep.

“We want acknowledgement that there are similarities and that our film Freedom Deep may have been the source material. We’re not out to get money as such,” Stevenson told Encore.

The Book of Eli was written by Gary Whitta, directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, and produced by Alcon Entertainment and Silver Pictures. It was distributed by Warner Bros. in the US – where it has earned U$94.4m – and will be released by Sony Pictures Australia this week.

Sony Pictures declined Encore‘s request for comment.

The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic story about a man (Denzel Washington) travelling across the United States, with a ‘calling’ to protect a book that many would kill to have, and deliver it to an unknown destination in the west.

Stevenson claims The Book of Eli is “virtually identical” to his film Freedom Deep.

“It’s not just the premise of the prophet getting the book back to the remnants of civilisation; that plot point is the same, but there are lots of visual references as well,” said Stevenson. “The last 10 minutes make it a little different, but up to that point, it’s pretty much the same.”

Freedom Deep was shot in 1995 and picked up by US-based distributor 1st Miracle Pictures in 1997, for a U$4,000 advance, with a percentage of profits to follow. According to Stevenson, from 1998 “all communication attempts with 1st Miracle Pictures were met with silence” and he was unaware of the film’s release plans, although he started receiving correspondence from fans who had seen the film on US and European TV and DVD.

Stevenson sought legal advice and was told to wait for the rights to return to Fatal Impact Productions when the five-year contract expired. He shot additional scenes to incorporate references to 9/11 and ultimately released a Final Director’s Version.

According to Stevenson, he first heard about the Eli project when it was in development, but did not contact the production. He still has not contacted anyone involved in the making of The Book of Eli at an official level.

“We’re independent and we don’t have the money to go to the US and start a legal case. It’s a David and Goliath story and we need the publicity first. We’re looking at the possibility at the moment,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson believes that “the Hughes Brothers and Warner Bros. were probably unaware that The Book of Eli was a reinterpretation of Freedom Deep”, and it was the writer Gary Whitta who “found[Freedom Deep] in bargain bins for $5, picked it up and wrote his own”.

“The best outcome for us is to get more exposure for our movie. If we then get lawyers and there’s a legal case and they want to take it further, then that’s fine too,” said Stevenson.

This is the Australian trailer for The Book of Eli:

And the trailer for Freedom Deep:


  1. John Ranko
    15 Apr 10
    9:28 pm

  2. I’ve seen Freedom Deep and plan to see Eli tomorrow. Based on the trailers i would say there might be a case here…. Eli versus Liam. Apparently one of the original titles for Freedom Deep tossed around was The Book of Liam!

  3. Daniel Eltringham
    15 Apr 10
    9:49 pm

  4. Seen the previews and a review on the movie show of Eli. I have got to say that there is definately some similarities in the visuals and premise of this movie. As was stated in the review on the movie show, there is a bit of a contradiction in the story line when Eli who is supposed to be carrying a bible kills nearly every other character. Eli really lacks the depth and quality story of Freedom Deep.

  5. Bee
    15 Apr 10
    9:49 pm

  6. How can this happen??? I have seen Freedom deep, and after seeing the trailer for Book of Eli have no reason to see it, I know what happens, I have already seen the original!! Someone needs to help out these guys, or soon we will have no aussie films produced, why would they when their films can so easily be ripped of by high budget film companies who clearly have no new ideas of their own!!

    I urge everyone, NOT to see Eli, see the original, and support our own!!!!

  7. KJ
    15 Apr 10
    9:52 pm

  8. When I first saw the trailer for the Book of Eli I thought it was a remake of Freedom Deep! It’s disheartening to see major film companies ripping off the ideas of others …..are they void of imagination and originality. I hope the director of Freedom Deep receives the credit he deserve for this blatant plagiarism by Gary Whitta & Warner Bros.

  9. John Koonya
    15 Apr 10
    9:55 pm

  10. I’ve not seen either of the films but just looking at these two clips side-by-side there are a number of shots that seem incredibly similar. Are you serious…it was workshopped as the Book of Liam….Rip-off. John

  11. Jenny Singe
    15 Apr 10
    9:59 pm

  12. My husband and I were at the premiere of ‘Freedom Deep’ and have followed this issue with great interest and plan to go and see the ‘the book of Eli’ as viewing the trailer it is too similar to be coincidental !!! Not impressed at all

  13. Shannon Bryan
    15 Apr 10
    10:01 pm

  14. This is fucked. Let’s all boycott Book of frigging Eli!

  15. Jett
    15 Apr 10
    10:21 pm

  16. “You wouldn’t steal a car……you wouldn’t steal a handbag……..you wouldn’t steal a movie….” OR WOULD YOU GARY WHITTA AND WARNER BROS! Don’t cry about piracy when you are also common thieves.

  17. Jenny Daly
    15 Apr 10
    10:53 pm

  18. Plagiarism they say is the highest form of flattery, but it is actually dishonest and underhanded to copy someone elses work and take the accolades yourself. Come on Warner Bros. come clean and admit the real source of Book of Eli. I support the fight for the truth for the Director of the original version Freedom Deep.

  19. Peter King
    16 Apr 10
    1:05 am

  20. I must say it is disappointing to see a lack of creativity coming out of Hollywood at the moment. This is another example of the industry beating up on the Independent industry! To rip off a hard working independent film maker who no doubt put their own time, money and creativity into producing an original piece of art is just deplorable!

    If you want to leave your mark on the film industry by blatantly copying the work of another I’d suggest you need to watch out for that whack around your ears, “good old Karma!!!!!”

    To Aaron Stevenson and his crew, you can only hope that justice will be served in the way of an audience with the powers who be to press your case for recognition and acknowledgement on what is an extremely gifted piece of art! Freedom Deep has already done it for me, not even interested in the other one until they rightfully call it a re-make of Freedom Deep!

  21. Peter Bernhard
    16 Apr 10
    1:21 am

  22. This is blatant plagiarism, and should not be allowed to continue! How on earth are indi film makers in Australia meant to have the fortitude and courage of conviction to create such great pieces of truly Australian Film such as ‘Freedom Deep’ When the big boys in Hollywood can just overrun them, AFI should take notice and band together to launch a class action against these Hollywood Bullies, firstly on principle to let them know we wont be compromised and used and secondly on blatant plagiarism! I AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED!

  23. Trevor McCarron
    16 Apr 10
    6:21 am

  24. If I tried to write an Aussie version of Harry Potter, or say The Watchmen, Warner Bros Entertainment would shut me down before the script got canvassed. These hypocrites go on and on about movie piracy taking profits from their business and killing their “artform”, but go blithely on with a direct rip off like this without so much as even an acknowledgement of the source material. More power to the asian DVD pirate market I say. If I see “Book of Eli” it’ll be on a 50 cent Bali copy which I’ll then give away. Tell everyone to beware of high budget imitations and give “Book of they lie” a miss, then try the seminal work, “Freedom Deep”.

  25. Nathan Warrick
    16 Apr 10
    4:10 pm

  26. Definitely looks like a ripoff to me. If this goes nowhere it’ll be another nail in the coffin of Aussie film making. Get this story on A Current Affair!! Australia should get behind Aaron and make sure the big guy doesn’t steamroll over this issue…

  27. KS
    16 Apr 10
    9:04 pm

  28. why isn’t the australian media onto this…….this needs to be exposed. Australian films are taken for granted…….the support in our film industry is embarassing….no wonder we get plagiarised.

  29. Brian Eisfelder
    16 Apr 10
    10:28 pm

  30. Book of Eli on appearance seems to have definately got it’s idea from Freedom Deep. Warner Bros should acknowledge this and in fairness, which we are led to believe is the American way, compensate the makers of Freedom Deep.

  31. Martin Cliff
    17 Apr 10
    10:01 am

  32. After seeing trailers of both,the similarities are amazing from the storyline to the locations.The clothing of the characters are also similar.I’m giving this film a miss,I’m surprised our media hasnt picked up on this.If this had happened the other way around I can guarantee that the US film association would be all over this director.

  33. Tara
    17 Apr 10
    12:54 pm

  34. The book of Eli appears to me to be an blatant rip off of freedom deep. From the trailor, it is apparant that not only is the premise of the film identical to freedom deep, but even the imagery and music, and characters are identical. I can understand how this must be incredibly frustrating for an independent filmaker. Where does Hollywood get off?!!!

  35. Terri Douglas
    17 Apr 10
    1:43 pm

  36. My sister and I enjoy film and cinema and follow closely with interest Australian film and art. We are quite familiar with Freedom Deep ( and fans of other releases by Fatal Impact Productions) as it was filmed around central Victoria where we live and received a lot of publicity during production and it’s premier.
    Before all this came out she saw the Book of Eli trailer and recognised immediately the film context and imagery was a take from Freedom Deep and rang me to say “they’ve ripped off Freedom Deep” She hadn’t seen the movie for several years but because the similarities are so defined it was instant recognition. I then saw the trailer for myself and I agree.

  37. hawkmaster
    17 Apr 10
    4:01 pm

  38. aykurumba! yet another reason why americans piss me off. this eli rubbish is certainly representative of the film freedom deep. Warner bros, i please have my $16 back? i feel cheap, sick and disgusted that my hard earned money has gone to cheats! Copycats! Cheating copycats, how lazy…oh yes they are americans.

  39. Aaron
    17 Apr 10
    10:26 pm

  40. Thanks to everyone who has come to the aid of Freedom Deep’s plight…. In the words of The Book of Liam… “Should I raise my voice should I raise my fist? It’s a shame to fight on a planet like this…”

  41. Bernie Binns
    18 Apr 10
    12:13 pm

  42. The similarities are clearly evident between these films and I was really disappointed to see that a well written, acted and directed Aussie film has been ripped off. Here sits a fine example of intellectual property theft in my opinion. I will stick with the original and far better film “Freedom Deep”. Keep up the good fight Fatal Impact Productions and I hope your film gains the recognition it deserves.

  43. Scott Eaton
    18 Apr 10
    3:59 pm

  44. Well what do you know. Hollywood certainly can lack creativity and originality. There are that many movies produced there that have been made before some where else. They just make ’em with more glitz and kapow. I hope Warner Brothers gives Mr Stevenson the credit he deserves and Gary Whitta a kick up the arse!

  45. Barry Densley
    18 Apr 10
    4:20 pm

  46. I was once told by my Senior Lecturer @ College that I should be flattered that another student had copied a piece of my artwork (to the extent that after our assignments had been graded I picked the student concerned assignment)?? ‘F’ that!.. do everything you can to drag Hughes & Warner Brothers over the coals, flattery doesn’t pay the bills – copyright laws just might though?? 😉 Baz

  47. Brett Sharpe
    18 Apr 10
    6:01 pm

  48. In this day and age, I can not believe that a movie like Freedom Deep can be ripped off so blatantly by a big Hollywood company.
    It just goes to show the “little guys” trying to get a brake in this industry are not getting a fair go. To compare the two side by side it shows the writer of The Book of Eli has not had a single idea of their own, to plagiarize to such and extent just goes to show how unimaginative and unoriginal someone can really be.
    Good luck to Fatal Impact Products in fighting this “David and Goliath” battle.

  49. Karina Morrison
    22 Apr 10
    3:20 pm

  50. Oooohhh yes, there are similarities here….. Hope the Director has big bucks or Erin Brockervick boobs in order to fight for his artistic integrity!

  51. Moby-Wan
    24 Apr 10
    7:44 am

  52. WHY?

    What next Denzel Washington in a remake of Emoh Ruo or Don’s Party, Breaker Morant, Stanley, Stone, BMX Bandits. I mean come on The Book of Eli is not Freedom Deep, it’s not even close and why would a future prophet literally go rambo on everyone in his way? Isn’t this insane slaughter still violence, still murder? The ending is a lame waste of time in Eli as are the 2 hours before it. Go see KICK ASS!

  53. Canadian
    26 Apr 10
    3:23 pm

  54. I believe people should watch the movies before making a judgement. I haven’t seen Freedom Deep. I have seen Book of Eli. Going off the trailer of Freedom Deep, the only thing that looks the same is the setting. Freedom Deep looks like it’s based on the creation of a new Bible whereas the Book of Eli revolves around the protection of the existing book.

    As a Canadian, I know how easy it is to get at Hollywood for steamrolling over locally produced films, but I don’t believe that’s the case here.

  55. Lachie
    8 May 10
    6:41 am

  56. AFI needs to stand up, not just for Fatal Impact but for all indi film makers. Sad to say it but I’m sure this has happened stacks of times before.

    Is there any way viewers in north america can see freedom deep and decide for themselves? publicity counts.

    I really hope the proper credit is given in the end and more people end up seeing the original as a result

  57. Tom Watts
    11 May 10
    12:35 pm

  58. I agree with Moby-Wan and Canadian. What the hell are you people getting so worked up about?

  59. Anthony
    11 May 10
    12:43 pm

  60. Freedom Deep looks gay.

  61. Lenny
    14 May 10
    10:48 pm

  62. It is sad this has happened.
    The band that did the soundtrack Goyas Child are also being “borrowed from ” by money strong Americans in the industry. John Mayer has “rehashed” their song “Wailing to the waves” from the movie Freedom Deep calling it Heartbreak warfare. He has a major hit with it but no money or credit to Goyas child, no permission. Who has the cash to legally fight something like this?
    Is there some link to this obvious movie rip-off?? Did Hollywood just pick the bones of this film and share the scraps around? Funny it is happening at the same time.

  63. gfdgdfdf
    20 May 10
    11:03 pm

  64. lol whitta